A source within the NBA/WNBA, who preferred not to mentioned by name, contacted me yesterday with concerns about information contained within Tuesday’s column. The league official was displeased by aspects he considered “over the top,” he shared league statistics on a few matters and he requested that I pass along this information to the Swish Appeal audience, which I agreed to do — and am doing, here.
Issues from the original piece not addressed by the league source include:
- pay inequities of WNBA players compared to their male NBA players
- commercial air travel of WNBA player
- issues with WNBA Store orders
- merchandise availability, e.g. bobbleheads
The topics that were deemed by this league official to have been reported on “inaccurate[ly]” include: back-to-back games, the WNBA website and availability of player photos via licensing agencies.
The original story referred to general knowledge about the effects of back-to-back play, across time zones, on athletes.
Although this passage does not include intentional or unintentional critique of the league’s scheduling, I was asked to report that the number of back-to-backs in the WNBA for the 2018 season is 2 games per team, which is close to the all-time low for seasons condensed by international competition: World Cup (WC) and Olympic Games.
Statistics on the effects of sleep deprivation and travel on basketball players were not provided in the prior article because the research has widely been accepted as common knowledge at this point. The NBA and WNBA have developed initiatives to improve the scheduling and lower the number of back-to-back games per season because they have accepted this research — and their own statistics — as fact. If this were not true, the NBA and WNBA would not work to lower the number of back-to-back games per season and, therefore, to reduce the strain on players and the risk of injuries to their bodies.
The research I am referring to in this case is the widely-reported study on Stanford basketball players that was published in 2011 in the journal SLEEP.
The league official provided examples showing that stats on the WNBA website are accurate and up-to-date. But it is a bit of an overreach to claim issues do not exist at all. Yes, player stats and game logs exist, with accuracy, the grand majority of the time. But this does not negate the fact that a sportswriter unaffiliated with this publication shared a screenshot of inaccurate team results/standings, or that a Swish Appeal writer has been delayed in completing recaps on a few occasions because box scores for the games she was writing about were not populated with information for in-progress games.
I, and everyone who covers the WNBA at Swish Appeal, do so because we love basketball, love the league and want the players to succeed in ways commensurate with their talent. So there is no malice in reporting on issues I and my team have experienced as well as on issues that have been reported by others, whether fans, players, coaches, sportswriters affiliated with other publications or otherwise.
Furthermore, I have a time-stamped screenshot of an error on the WNBA website from the morning of Wednesday June 20, the day after my article ran, which further proves the point that the WNBA website is not free of glitches or errors. In this case, the error involves the final score of a game. I mention this with hopes that the league will look into any issues internally and resolve them. However, with a goal of fostering positive relations with the league, I am choosing to omit this image from today’s story.
In the prior piece, I reported on the difficulty of finding accurate, in-season photos of WNBA players to accompany stories. The league official provided me with evidence that scores of pages of photos in fact, do, exist on the players I’d mentioned in that story: Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chiney Ogwumike. The league official also informed me that a sportswriter with a major city newspaper had contacted him with concerns about difficulties finding current photos as well. So, a problem definitely exists for some media outlets, but this dialogue from the league has revealed that the issue has not been caused by the NBA or WNBA.
In fact, the league source stated that the WNBA has photographers at every game, which is great news! And, with this information, Swish Appeal and other publications can work with photo agencies to ensure that we, too, have access to the most current photos available.
The conversation with the league official was productive overall, primarily because the cause of the photo issue was identified, which will allow us to address it and move forward with higher quality work. Additionally, it is important that WNBA fans know the league has photographers at every game to document the excellence that happens night in and night out. And, finally, of all the professional team sports leagues in the country, the WNBA has probably the best record when it comes to reducing the number of back-to-backs for each team in any given season.
As with the players, the WNBA as a league — both on and off the court — sets a fine example of a major business doing good work overall — especially on matters of corporate responsibility and inclusion. But there is still work to be done. As a long-time fan of the WNBA and a media person covering the league, I hope the league will make it a priority to begin resolving some of the issues that have been brought to their attention — for their own betterment, for the sake of growing the fan base and for the sake of journalists who rely on the WNBA website to carry out daily job functions.
Also ... bobbleheads, please?